Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar's Life Story
Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar-Nelson
Alice continued to write during their marriage, publishing The Goodness of St. Rocque and Other Stories in 1899. She endured four years of an abusive marriage to Paul before leaving him after he assaulted her in January of 1902. Alice and Paul never divorced, and Alice used his name and was considered his widow after Paul’s 1906 death from tuberculosis. After leaving Paul, Alice moved to Wilmington, Delaware. There she became a teacher and administrator at Howard High School. She married for a second time in 1910, but her union with teacher Henry Arthur Callis (1887–1974), a founder of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, lasted only three years. In 1916, she married journalist and civil rights activist Robert J. Nelson (b. 1873; fl. 1944).
Alice wrote poetry, essays, and columns for newspapers in the decades after 1902, generally publishing in periodicals, and worked to obtain votes for women, anti-lynching laws, and civil rights. While she was older and wrote in a more traditional style than did other poets of the Harlem Renaissance, contemporary scholars include her as one of its poets. She served on the State Republican Committee for Delaware and, with Robert Nelson, edited the Wilmington Advocate. She died of heart disease in Philadelphia on December 18, 1935 and was cremated; her ashes were scattered over the Delaware River.
Did You Know?
The Dunbar House in Dayton, Ohio, was purchased by Paul for his mother in 1903. On July 23, 1936, the Dunbar House became the first state memorial to honor an African American.